How To: Create A Rainbow Link Hover Effect

So, typically I try to write pretty long, in-depth articles and tutorials. This week I do not have the energy, so we're doing a quick tutorial on how I created a rainbow hover effect for the links in the forth-coming redesign of my website and blog. This is also my first tutorial on anything CSS related! 🎉 So, let's get into it...

First, let's talk a tags:

As you probably already know, a tags are what we use to create both internal and external links on a webpage. We can target and add effects to links when we hover our cursor over them by using the :hover selector.

For example, let's say on my site, I have all of my a tags set to be blue by default:

a {
  color: blue;

And I want them to be red when they're hovered over. To accomplish that, we can simply do the following:

a:hover {
  color: red;

This will produce the effect demonstrated below:

Great! We can handle a basic a tag hover. Now how do we get it to be a rainbow? 🤔

Creating a linear-gradient

In order to create the rainbow effect we're looking for, what we need to do is apply a linear-gradient background to our text, and then use something called a background-clip to only apply that gradient to the text of our link.

First, let's create that gradient:

a {
  color: black;
  background: linear-gradient(90deg, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple);

The linear-gradient background option takes a few arguments:

  • First, the angle you want the direction of your gradient to be. Here, I've chosen 90deg so the gradient will go in order from left to right. (if you do not include this argument the gradient will be applied from top to bottom)

  • Then, you can list any number of colors you want to include in your gradient. I've chosen the full rainbow spectrum, but you could really choose any colors you like, and use any color format (CSS color names, hex color codes, HSL, RGB, etc).

Try this out and see what happens.

Oops! That's not what we were expecting...

If you tried this out, you'll notice that the gradient is, as you might expect, applied to the entire background of our text.

This is where the background-clip comes in...

a {
  color: black;
  background: linear-gradient(90deg, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple);
  background-clip: text;
  -webkit-background-clip: text;

Using background-clip tells your CSS exactly where you want to apply your background. Setting this option to text tells our CSS we want the background only applied to the text inside of the element we're targeting.

You can read more about background-clip on MDN, but keep in mind that background-clip: text is not widely supported yet. This effect will work best in Firefox, Edge, and Chrome, as long as you include the -webkit-background-clip option. This effect will not work in IE, which I'm sure comes as no surprise.

Now that we've added this to our CSS you might be thinking that it's not working. Your text will appear as whatever color you've specified in your CSS (here I've used black) and that's a good thing!

There's one more step...

Now, when we we :hover over our links, we want to make our link text transparent, which will allow our background gradient to show through. I'm also going to add a slight transition effect, because I like the look of the gradient slowly fading in...

a:hover {
  color: transparent;
  transition: 500ms ease;

Here's the final effect:

And that's it! We have a nice rainbow gradient hover effect on our links! 🎉

I really enjoy adding little touches like this to my projects because it just adds a fun little flair and some personality, plus I especially enjoying finding way to incorporate rainbows into anything I can.

Let me know if you try this out, and happy hovering!

xx -Emily / TheCodePixi